Off the deep end

Latest M. Night Shyamalan vehicle violates its own internal logic without offering enough jolts

LADY OUT OF WATER <br>Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard consider a fine bottle of Cab to ease their worried minds.

Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard consider a fine bottle of Cab to ease their worried minds.

Lady in the Water
Starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jeffrey Wright. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

As an immediate experience M. Night Shyamalan’s “bedtime story” Lady in the Water fails to deliver. Some fellow audience members seemed to agree, offering snorts of derision as the end credits began to roll. There was some subdued muttering, and more than a few shaking heads as folks filed toward the exits.

Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t all that compelling. Shyamalan asks for a bit too much cinematic innocence on the part of his audience. I’m still chewing on what it was ultimately about—not the movie itself, which violates too much of its own internal logic to be taken seriously as being well thought out—but the director’s intent. Granted, he did deliver a couple of decent jolts, but nothing nearing the moment of goose-pimply frisson I’ve found in each of his previous outings (yes, I even managed to find one in the otherwise interminable The Village).

Shyamalan’s biggest hurdle here is providing a subtext railing against analyzing a film (or in this case “The Story"), which is only arrived at by analyzing the damned film.

My head hurts.

SPOILER: The inclusion of a film critic as the closest thing to a human antagonist the film offers seems at first like a diss to the reviewers who have been escalatingly deriding his storytelling tactics following The Sixth Sense. But as the character essentially breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reasons for his imminent demise, the choice elevates the proceedings to an almost meta-movie level, in that the story—any story—is automatically sabotaged by the intrusion of critical thought. The film’s primary issue/obstacle resolved, everything after the death of the critic plays out like an afterthought, to the point that the promised big money shot (the giant eagle swooping down to pluck the eponymous character to safety) is only implied as a reflection in the ripples of the swimming pool. END SPOILER.

Does your head hurt, too?

In a way, Shyamalan really may be the most wildly self-indulgent auteur let loose unquestioned behind a camera in Hollywood. Which could be a damnable shame, if this movie tanking at the box office were to encourage the suits to crack down even further on any project existing outside the creation-by-committee, vetted-by-preview formula.